Following in her mother's footsteps, Caroline Kennedy has always had a passion for books and literature. After being first lady, Jackie Onassis edited books on art and culture, but she also had a great love for poetry.
Caroline's latest anthology She Walks in Beauty: a Woman's Journey through POEMS is a collection geared more for women than for men, although the poems themselves are written by both sexes.
The book includes very large sections on "Marriage" and "Growing Up and Growing Old" as well as sections on "Love" in all its aspects--falling, making, and breaking up. She also has gathered poems on "Work," "Friendship," and "Beauty, Clothes, and Things of This World." Two of my favorite sections are somewhat unexpected; they include "Silence and Solitude" and "How to Live." The latter compendium does what poetry does best, shows us what elements are truly important in our lives.
If you're wondering which poets, Kennedy has included it's an international cast from many time periods including the very famous: Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Emily Bronte, and Sylvia Plath along with the less famous Wendy Cope, Bernadette Mayer, and Barbara Ras.
Two of my favorites are Kim Addonizo's one about a little red dress titled "What Do Women Want?" and Neruda's sonnet " XLIV: You Must Know that I Do Not Love and that I Love You." Talk about contradictions.
At the beginning of each section, Kennedy inserts a small essay. From these you learn a lot about the famous and reclusive woman and her choices in life. In the section on growing up and growing old she reveals how much she dreaded her 50th birthday even though three of her birthday gifts from friends were copies of poems that jump-started this anthology.
Her lead into the section called "Making Love" reveals how shocked her children felt when she chose to include any sexual poems.
So many of these poems can be read aloud and be shared with family and friends. In fact, I plan to buy a copy of the book, so I can keep it close at hand.
In her introduction, Kennedy says, "Women have always been the weavers of the world, literally and figuratively. We weave people together, we weave the experience of life into patterns, and we weave our stories into words...Poems distill our deepest emotions into very few words--words that we can remember, carry with us, and share with others as we talk and weave this cloth of life."
For an excellent anthology devoted only to women's poetry check out A Book of Women Poets from Antiquity to Now.